Football teams comprised of clones of the talented players is the stuff of third-rate sci-fi scripts which prop up the wonky leg of the Warner Bros Chief Script Editor’s desk. For England, it might be some kind of reality. Taking care to eschew the mad professorial garb, Gareth Southgate proclaimed that he was just weeks away from perfecting his cloning experiment and that England would have seven Jack Wilshere’s in the team, including the real thing.
The youngster was deemed too short to goalkeeper or central defender material which will be a welcome relief to the rest of the World as it is likely that this will be the weakness that stops England dominating world football. As for the central striking duties, Southgate is keen to pursue a cross between Andy Carroll and Wilshere, genuinely giving the forward a good touch for a big man.
It seems that the love-in for Jack extends beyond the Arsenal kingdom; the national team is the damsel in distress and Jack will arrive on his trusty charger to rescue her. It was tempting to use the analogy of Jack and the Beanstalk with the English game represented by the giant but not even Jack can slay that foe when neanderthals like Pulis are still gainfully employed.
Wilshere is a reason to be optimistic about next season, not that you should need any at this stage of the close season. If you cannot be optimistic about football now, you never will be. Arsenal have completed what appears to be the majority of their signings although I still feel that one more major transfer into the club will happen. That leaves the business of Arsène taking his secateurs to the squad and pruning judiciously those whom he feels have fulfilled their Arsenal duties.
As things stand, there is a competitive squad at Arsenal and with the usual proviso about luck and injuries, one that can take the step up to the next level. Enough has been written about retaining players but with those at the club now, I am not convinced that losing a star player is the problem it was last season. Obviously you want the best players at the club but with the strikers added, there is depth if van Persie remains, there is cover if he does not. Crucially, there is time for the club to measure its’ reponse, rather than rushing.
Of the two contracts to be negotiated this summer, Theo Walcott is the one that concerns me more. Whilst van Persie is key in the short-term, Walcott has the peak of his career still to come. Often derided for his performances, his consistency is overlooked by blinkered abuse. So long as he remains injury-free (relatively speaking), I expect his contribution to the side to continue increasing. This will be his seventh season around the first team, a span which makes people forget that he is still only 23. Imposing the consistency of those four years older on him is an unfair basis for comparison.
Freddie Ljungberg is positive about the squad,
I enjoy watching the current team – it’s a young side and will hopefully get better and better. With the addition of one or two good signings, things look bright.
Since the interview took place, Olivier Giroud’s transfer was confirmed. This summer has seen the club take steps forward in winning the PR battle; signings before sales, if there are to be any departures. That is the key. It doesn’t always work that way but with football deals usually being protracted affairs at the top level, rare are the occasions when the club should be caught out.
Ljungberg is of course right to be optimistic. There is plenty of talent that is now a year older, a season further along in finding consistency of performance. Some will take the step to the next level of playing, developing from precocious talent to very good; world class is a few seasons away yet. But with the likes of Gervinho more settled in England, you hope that the consistency which brought him his transfer in the first place, will emerge and bring its’ due reward.
Yes, the squad is not the finished article and with Bacary Sagna out until the autumn, injury is already challenging. But beyond replacing players who leave where necessary, the squad is not in bad shape and capable of defying their critics once more. Reasons to be cheerful, indeed.